Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

June 10, 2014

TOM LoBIANCO: Indiana Democrats, Republicans tangle with identities

True test of messaging will come at ballot box

As Indiana’s two major political parties met to rally their troops ahead of November’s elections, their party leaders sought ways to hold together various factions and lead them to victory this fall, which is not always an easy task.

Republicans meeting for their convention in Fort Wayne this past weekend spent hours voting on who should be their pick for treasurer and fought over whether gay marriage should be addressed in their party platform. And Republican Party Chairman Tim Berry searched for ways to keep them together.

As he looked to inspire the roughly 1,500 delegates, Berry ticked down a list of the things that unified them. Playing on the convention’s “One party working for Indiana” slogan, Berry talked of opposition to tax hikes and Environmental Protection Agency regulations and support for war veterans and alternatives to the federal health care overhaul.

He ended with a none-too-subtle dig against former Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg, who sports a trademark walrus-style mustache and is pondering another run in 2016.

“And while the Democrats, while they’re focused on whether the mustache is going to run in 2016, we’re the one party focused on winning in 2014,” he said to cheers.

But the following day, a key fracture within the party over the issue of gay marriage became strikingly visible during a vote on the party’s platform — an umbrella document stating the values of the party and its members. Social moderates in the party fought to pull language in the document opposing gay marriage. During the vote, the delegates gathered in the convention hall were asked to stand if they supported the effort.

A head count was never taken, but supporters of marriage being between one man and one woman were in a clear majority.

In many ways, conventions are an open display of the inherent diversity of America’s political parties — not on the stage, with its scripted speakers, but on the floor, where activists and operatives chew over the party’s future and wring their hands about November — 2014, 2015, 2016 and beyond.

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